Home Inspiring Stories Poverty, Discrimination Instill Desire to Change

Poverty, Discrimination Instill Desire to Change

Poverty, Discrimination Instill Desire to Change
Ishook Ram with his mother and father

Son of a laborer and born in a small village, Ishook is also the first one to be enrolled for MBA class 2022 at Lahore University of Management Sciences.   

A story of a young boy who struggled hard and dragged himself through a diverse set of experiences at a painter’s shop, in a garments factory in Karachi, chemical plant operator, IT and power industry and educational activist for the marginalized community.

Sindh Courier

Ishook Ram is the first Engineer, first government officer in Water and Development Authority (WAPDA), and first one to be part of MBA class of 2022 at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) from our 500K Hindu community residing in South Punjab.

“I have tackled many challenges in my life. Coming from an underprivileged family I did not have the luxury of having lofty goals and dreams. Life for me was what I saw around me in my small village off Sadiqabad. As I progressed through different stages of life, a vision formulated of its own in my mind to continuously move forward,” Ishook Ram said while his life story on Linkedin and consented sharing it on Sindh Courier.

“I opened my eyes in a house of extreme poverty, restlessness, and chaos, in a small village of Rahim Yar Khan, South Punjab, Pakistan. My father, a laborer by profession, and my mother, a housewife, always found it hard to feed their 8 children. It was my uncle, who strove hard within the family to send me to the Government-run Village School. A School where I would hardly ever see any teacher but lots of buffaloes grazing. It was a great school with two teachers on board and nothing else. No proper building, no chairs, no clean drinking water, and no boundary wall,” he writes.

Ishook says, “In addition, there were challenges of discrimination for minority students in government school based in villages,” and added recalling, “I remember, my class fellows’ reluctance in eating and drinking with me and even sometimes in shaking hands with me”.

“This first experience of education left a bitter aftertaste and I remember just wanting to get away from this environment and start working as I had seen others around me doing. But my uncle, who was unable to pass grade six, wanted me to pass at least middle school. Further my uncle said that surviving in the middle school is very difficult because in the local curriculum passing Arabic is mandatory to promote to the next class. I accepted that challenge and studied hard and got second position in Arabic in grade six. My teachers were amazed and uncle was very happy that finally someone in family passed grade six.”

“However, even after getting second position in Arabic, discrimination with me continued in the middle school at the same level, my classmates forced me to keep my glass separate for drinking water and even on the school parties I needed to bring my own plates from my home. Despite all these challenges, I maintained my position in the class and got first position in seventh and eighth grade”.

“It was only after I graduated, my name was written on the school board in the list of high achievers,” he shared.

At the age of 14 years, Ishook Ram had started part-time working as a painter’s apprentice while continuing with his studies as per his uncle’s suggestion. All this continued and he matriculated with good marks. At the age of 16 years, he joined a garments factory in Karachi with his uncle in summer vacations and worked there for three months. “I loved garments factory because I have seen no discrimination in Karachi and all people are eating at the same hotels and drinking in the same glass,” he writes.

“At garments unit one of my seniors from Hindu community suggested me that being good at study, I should complete intermediate, and he will adjust me as a supervisor in the garments factory in Karachi. This option looked good to me. I came back and started F. Sc. from government Degree College.”

Ishook Ram- Sindh Courier-1During first-year summer vacations, he had successfully completed three months technical diploma in Home Appliances Repair. “After completing intermediate, I was not interested to go back to Karachi because I was looking for some technical job. Finally, I was selected as a Chemical Plant Operator at Fauji Fertilizer Company (FFC) in Machhi Goth, Sadiqabad.”

“During my stay at FFC, I explored life and saw a clear difference in the lifestyle of an Engineer and a Plant Operator. Engineers had separate dining halls, separate facilities for playing indoor & outdoor sports. Once I got a chance to see an Engineer sitting in his office working on Laptop with a cup of coffee on table. He was as young as I was, this motivated me a lot. After comparing many things, my gut feeling motivated me that I have potential and must become an Engineer,” Ishook Ram shared how he got inspiration.

He came to know that in the government Degree College a one month summer camp was starting in July 2008 for ICT scholarship. He went to his supervisor and requested one month’s leave but he declined and said it is not possible. He came back and started thinking about getting leave.

“I went again the next day and this time he said if you are getting married I will give you maximum of one week leave but long leave is not possible. When I stressed, he said ‘Why don’t you resign, if you are so fond of becoming an engineer? – I asked politely: sir what is Resign? He was surprised and explained, ‘if you want to leave the job on your own, then you need to put in a resignation’. I smiled and thought ‘Great. It’s done’”.

Ishook Ram continued, “Next day I went to the office of General Manager and met hi his subordinate who tried to convince me against resigning saying ‘you are from underprivileged community and should consider yourself lucky that you are working as a Plant Operator in FFC’. My mind was made up, I said ‘Sir, tell me how I have to resign’. Then he advised me to come to him later after ensuring the admission. But as I was adamant, my supervisor said I can resign whenever I want. Looking at my determination, energy, and willingness to stay firm on my decision, he wished me best of luck for the future journey. I wrote the shortest resignation letter as I can’t write fancy English – I WANT TO BECOME AN ENGINEER, KINDLY ACCEPT MY RESIGN.”

He joined summer camp at Degree College and prepared for university entrance exams. He was selected in UET Lahore on open merit and COMSATS Abbottabad at fully funded ICT Scholarship. He secured admission at UET Lahore but had no money and his family was not in the position to support him financially. Hence, he started Electronics Engineering at COMSATS. His family was happy as the scholarship was covering all expenses with a stipend of 3000 rupees per month.

“Culture and exposure at university was very exciting and exhilarating, there were no concept of discrimination and I made a lot of friends from all provinces of the country. I graduated from the COMSATS Abbottabad amongst the top 10% of the students and became the first engineer in the Hindu community, with approximately 0.5 million people, residing in South Punjab,” Ishook proudly shared his success.

After completing bachelors, he voluntarily worked on issue of minorities and to create education awareness in community in South Punjab.

“I joined NetSol Technologies Ltd as a Software Quality Assurance Engineer. I was working with different teams on different projects from China, Thailand, India, South Africa, and Australia. I experienced that Project Manager (PM) is earning higher than SQA Engineer. PM goes abroad to launch projects of clients with technical team. PM used to leave office exactly at 6p.m but we were working longer hours around 9p.m to 10p.m. For some projects we worked even on weekends”.

“I thought, If I stick with the same career path it will take me 12 to 15 years to become PM. I was looking for a faster progression and as a result of online research an MBA from LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) seemed as the perfect way to achieve my goals. I was so curious to join LUMS; every morning when I came to office, I firstly opened website of LUMS and look for some exciting news then start my work,” he said.

“I was planning to become part of LUMS MBA for the class of 2019 or 2020 but due to sudden death of my elder brother in 2016, I quit my plan for MBA. My family was going through tough time and health of my parents especially mother was critical”.

“I was planning to switch my job in the IT Company as I was not able to spend much time with my family. I hardly got 2-3 days leave per month. I was looking for government job opportunities in my city Rahim Yar Khan as I wanted to be close to my family and provide emotional support in addition to the financial support. My efforts bore fruit and I was selected as a government officer (BPS-17) in Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). I worked at a 22 MW Jabban hydel power station in Dargai, Malakand KPK. I was happy as working almost one month on the plant then going for two weeks long leave and sometimes extended leaves by simply calling my senior”.

Ishook Ram- Sindh Courier-2After spending two years at WAPDA, things improved for his family. At that time, again he had a strong motivation for MBA from LUMS but he wanted to fulfill family obligations and collect some savings for the family. He managed the marriage ceremony of his sister, supported sibling’s education and family household expenses. “My passion for moving forward had not stopped and in 2020, I was selected for Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at LUMS known as “Harvard of Pakistan”.

“Whenever I look back at my story and connect the dots, I feel satisfied and confident. A story of a young boy who struggled hard and dragged himself through a diverse set of experiences at a painter’s shop, in a garments factory in Karachi, chemical plant operator FFC, engineering grad, educational activist for the marginalized community, IT industry, power industry, and on top of that business grade from top B-school of Pakistan was not easy to achieve. It all requires constant struggle and strong passion and motivation to “MOVE FORWARD IN LIFE AND BRING CHANGE”.

“In my community, residing in South Punjab, there is a lack of education, my story gives a strong motivational message to everyone to study and move forward in life. My leadership approach is to tackle challenges in life, move forward and consistently work to make a change in my life and in the life of others,” he concluded with a message for youth.